Hard Habit to Break Submitted by QRAIG
“Are you ready,” she asked, slowly positioning the needle near my bicep. I nodded. A tinny buzzing sound instantly filled the air, followed by what could only be described as the intense pain of a sharp razor blade being dragged across my upper arm. Though it was all mildly annoying, I was excited – just like all the other times someone etched a tattoo onto my body.
This time was different though. I had been waiting almost 30 years to get this particular tattoo.
It all began when a girl named Allyson transferred into my 6th grade class. Our teacher called her “special” in an attempt to prepare us for the shock we might feel upon initially seeing her. You see, Allyson had many medical conditions. She had scoliosis, was overweight due to her medication and had a scar running down the middle of her chest. Our teacher described it as looking like, “a long white worm.”
When Allyson was finally introduced to the class, I let out a soft groan of disappointment. The new girl wasn’t some hideous beast like I secretly hoped. Sure she was bit overweight and leaned slightly to the left from scoliosis, but otherwise she was positively normal. I couldn’t even see the scar! Bummer.
But as I, along with my friends Michelle and Jason got to know Allyson better, we discovered that she was actually “special”. Not only that, Allyson had a secret addiction that quickly took hold of all of us and wouldn’t let go.
When Allyson introduced us to her addiction, we were instantly hooked and getting our fix whenever we could. We’d feed our habit in Michelle’s bedroom during cold wintry days, in my basement when the moon was full, on Jason’s porch late into the evening or on dark Saturday nights in Allyson’s living room.
If we tried to stop, our addiction seemed to call us back. Whether it was through the wind rustling the autumn leaves, the awful cry of cats fighting in the bushes beneath our window or the creaking of a settling house - the four of us always found an excuse to go back and fulfill our needs just one more time.
When we’d do it and inevitably get spooked, we’d promise never to touch it again. But its call was too strong and we were soon at it one more time. We couldn’t stop.
Like all addicts, my friends and I thought we had a handle on our habit. We could totally control it. That all changed one rain-soaked weekend afternoon in Michelle’s room.
Allyson, Michelle, Jason and I were sitting on the bed and listening to music when someone suggested it. It was the perfect setting, after all. With Michelle’s parents downstairs, we quietly retrieved the necessities from beneath the bed and turned off the lights. Carefully removing our dirty habit from the box, we arranged ourselves in a circle around it, placed our fingers on it and silently began by asking the same question before we could truly begin.
Allyson always asked because, as she told us, spirits always answered witches. That’s what made her so special. Our very own pre-teen witch would close her eyes and whisper, “Is there a spirit in the room?”
The planchette never failed to move. At first, we could get the spirits to answer just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. With patience and practice, we were soon getting one word answers and names. Soon we were so skilled that the spirits would answer in full sentences and even predict future events. But it was this dreary afternoon when we finally stepped over the Ouija threshold of no return. This was the day when the spirits read our minds!
This is how we intended it to work. Three people would put their fingers on the planchette while the fourth person would think of a three digit number. Then, this person would run downstairs to whisper their number to Michelle’s mother. When the planchette predicted the number, we would compare it to the one Michelle’s Mom was told. If they matched, not only would we be mystified by the amazing powers of the Ouija board, our addiction would be fully justified and we’d no longer have to hide it from anyone. That was the plan anyway.
How did it really go down? Well, three of us sat Indian style around the Ouija board and placed our hands on the planchette. The fourth person thought of a three digit number and ran downstairs to tell Michelle’s Mom. Upon returning, they’d sit on the far side of the room and ask the spirits for their prediction. Slowly, the planchette moved and revealed three digits. The person who picked the number would turn ghostly white and ask Michelle’s Mom to yell up what was whispered to her. And when she did…
The numbers always matched.
We sat around in a darkened room for hours waiting for the spirits to make a mistake. They never did. Time and time again, someone would think of a number, the spirits revealed their numerals and Michelle’s Mom would scream up a number. And they were always the same.
As day turned into night, the four of us got increasingly spooked. Every time a prediction turned out true, we became a bit more unnerved. And when the four of us were completely freaked, we threw the Ouija board back under the bed, switched on the lights and vowed never to touch the thing again.
But then the wind would call our names, the cats in the bushes would hiss out a haunting question or the house would creak in such a way that we wouldn’t be able to resist. Our compulsion once again beckoned us to play. And we’d drag out the Ouija board – seeking answers from our haunting addiction. One letter or number at a time.
“All done,” my tattooist chimed almost 3 hours after she began. Wiping down the artwork, she added, “I love doing original tattoos like yours. Not just by the numbers.”
Looking down at my bicep, I saw perfect renditions of the sun and moon featured on the Ouija board. I now had something on my body to forever haunt me with memories of my old childhood compulsion and that day when the spirits read my mind.
I smiled at my tattooist. “Oh, this tattoo is more ‘by the numbers’ than you’ll ever know.”
Coincidences? ….Mysteries of Found Money
Submitted by BETH
All my life I have had a strange relationship with money. I find money, mostly coins, sometimes larger amounts, almost daily. It’s not like I’m thinking about money and trying to manifest it in my life. I never think about money. In fact, numbers in general don’t hold meaning for me. When I see numbers, I notice the shape of the numbers (and sometimes I associate colors with numbers) but an amount doesn’t enter my mind. So it’s odd that money shows up in my life so often. The following was one such incident.
Some background information: I grew up in a very disjointed, chaotic family. My mother married and divorced several times. Most of my childhood, we had very little money, getting by day to day. I started working at age 15. When I was 17, I left home for college. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship with paid for tuition and room and board. But I still needed to have a part-time job while in college to afford to purchase books, and the basics of living.
My freshman year I got a job on campus, which barely covered my expenses each month. I lived paycheck to paycheck, not able to save any amount. During holidays, winter break, and spring break, the campus was closed and I didn’t work (or get paid).
During winter break of my sophomore year, I found myself staying at a friend’s apartment who had gone home for the month. I had family nearby but there was no room in their apartment for an extra person. They also were strapped financially. I made it through most of winter break fine until the final weekend, that is. It was Friday morning and although I was looking forward to the dorms opening in 2 days, I had run out of money. The dining hall was scheduled to open Sunday at . I didn’t have much gas in my car, but decided to drive over to my family to see if they could help me out.
I had a nice visit but they had very little in their refrigerator, and nothing extra to spare. I decided then, that I would just have to wait until Sunday early evening for my next meal. I left my family’s apartment and was walking to the parking lot to drive back to where I was staying. I was upset about facing the prospect of going 2 days without eating, and I wasn’t sure I had enough gas to even get back. And yet, I was also resigned to the reality of my situation. Looking back now, I had pretty much decided that I had no control over my current situation and I was surrendering to whatever will be, will be. Things will unfold and I will go with the flow, as they say.
As I approached my car though, I saw something on the ground next to the driver’s side door. I bent down to pick it up and saw that it was a folded wad of bills! I picked up the wad of bills and looked around, but no one else was in the parking lot. In fact, I noticed that no one was out in the apartment complex anywhere. I unfolded the bills and counted $100! Needless to say, the first thing I did was gas up the car (and back then, gas had just risen to $1.00 a gallon!). Then of course, I got purchased food for the next 2 days.
Was it just a coincidence? Or was it luck? To me, it felt like someone was looking out for me (a guardian angel perhaps).